Battling Testicular Cancer
Though curable, testicular cancer is often ignored by men who have it.
Doctors also aren't completely sure why testicular cancer fancies young men. Some believe the rapidly dividing sperm and testicular cells of men in their sexual prime may result in cellular mistakes that become cancerous.
What doctors do know is that a man born with an undescended testicle (one that remains in the abdomen rather than ending up in the scrotum during fetal development) appears to have a significantly greater chance of testicular cancer, even if the flaw is surgically repaired.
"Those testicles that don't descend seem to be predisposed for testicular cancer later in life," says Uzzo, adding that not every man born with the condition will develop testicular cancer. "It gives us the idea that these testicles are predisposed."
Testicular cancer usually manifests itself as a painless swelling or a mass in the affected testicle. A man also may experience a dull ache or the heavy feeling in the lower stomach, scrotum, or groin area, similar to what Nass experienced. Treatment depends upon whether the disease has migrated to other parts of the body.
"The first thing to do is remove the testicle and then stage the patient with a chest X-ray and CAT scan to see if the cancer has spread," Uzzo says.
To determine if lymph nodes are involved, surgery may be required to remove them. The good news is that tumor cells are very sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation, primarily because they divide and multiply so quickly. That means that nearly all -- even advanced --testicular cancer is curable.
The ACS reports that the cure rate for disease that is detected early is approaching 100%, and 90% for testicular cancer of all stages (degrees of spread) combined.
"It is one of the most eminently treatable types of cancers we have," Uzzo says.
The case of Lance Armstrong is a good example. In 1996, the world-class cyclist ignored early symptoms, including groin soreness. Before long, however, he was suffering headaches, blurry vision, and coughing up blood. A visit to his doctor revealed that testicular cancer had spread throughout his body, including to his brain. Doctors gave the elite athlete only a 50/50 chance of survival.